Monday, July 29th, 2013
By Gary R. Rasberry
Defiance repeats as champions
ACME State Tournament
  COLDWATER - With traditional baseball powers like Coldwater and Defiance matched up in the championship game, the finale of the 2013 ACME state tournament was expected to be a classic battle.
It turned out to be a slugfest at Veterans Field.
Coldwater scored four times in the bottom of the first and then allowed 15 unanswered runs over the next three innings. The Cavaliers rallied before Defiance, three outs away from a run-rule win, had to settle for a 17-11 victory to repeat as the summer state champions.
The Bulldogs (22-6) won their fifth state title in eight years and the Cavaliers (27-6), who were trying to win their first state crown since 1994, end the summer as runner-up for the fourth time in nine years.
"The kids wanted to play on the last day (of the season)," said Coldwater coach Tom Brunswick. "We were able to do it, but it was a tall order. The kids really thought they could do this. You have to give Defiance credit, they hit the ball really well."
The teams excelled offensively, with a combined 30 hits, including nine for extra bases. The two defenses did struggle at times as they combined for 11 errors, seven by the Cavaliers.
Grant Muhlenkamp helped the Cavs get off to a great start in the bottom of the first inning with a home run into the net in rightfield. It was the first of five straight hits against Shay Smiddy that gave the Cavs an early 4-0 advantage.
"We got a fantastic start today," said Brunswick. "We're feeling good about the four-run lead and knew we needed something positive early in the game to play with a club like Defiance."
Coldwater's Greg Gilliland pitched a scoreless first inning but did not repeat the feat in the second. Defiance sent 10 batters to the plate and to chase Gilliland from the mound as Muhlenkamp had to come in from rightfield to pitch after just 1 1/3 innings. Defiance took advantage of three Cavalier errors and big RBI hits from Austin Hancock and Dom Gentile to charge in front 5-4.
"That wasn't the way we wanted to start whatsoever," said Defiance coach Bryn Lehman of the early Coldwater outburst. "The guys did a tremendous job bouncing back, like they did all summer. We were just fortunate to get back into the game."
Defiance kept up the pressure, scoring two more in the third, four in the fourth and four more in the fifth. Muhlenkamp was chased after giving up eight run in 2 2/3 innings.
"After the second, they really kept adding on every inning," said Brunswick. "We couldn't stop the momentum."
The Bulldogs were up 15-4 going into the bottom of the fifth and Smiddy needed just three outs to end the game via the run-rule. The Cavaliers, though, would not bow out in that manner, sending 11 batters to the plate. Smiddy managed to get just one out and the Bulldogs committed four errors in the inning.
Ty Gutierrez came on to try and shut the door on Coldwater's run, but lasted just two batters before Hancock, who had already won two games in the tournament, was called to the mound. When the smoke cleared, Coldwater scored seven times to cut its deficit to 15-11.
"Our kids didn't quit," said Brunswick. "They responded with seven runs and made it interesting. I'm proud of them battling all the way to the end."
"I knew they were going to make a push at the end, which they did," said Lehman. "The guys did a tremendous job weathering that and taking care of business."
Defiance was able to add two more runs in the game, but Hancock didn't need the insurance runs. He threw 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief, striking out four.
"He wanted the ball. He's our leader and ace," said Lehman of Hancock. "He's the guy we go to when things aren't going our way, like that fifth inning. He did a great job."
Hancock, who was 2-0 in the tournament on the mound with a save and 4-for-6 at the plate with three RBI in the title game, was named the Most Valuable Player of the state tournament. Teammates Derek Turner (2-for-4, two runs) and Gentile (2-for-5, 2 RBI) also made the all-tournament team.
Coldwater placed three on the all-tournament team: Muhlenkamp (1-for-4, 2 RBI), Mitch Heyne (2-for-3, 2 RBI) and Derek Thobe (2-0 while pitching in the tournament). Also making the all-tournament team were Shawnee's Trevor Anderson, Crestview's Damien Helm and Bellefontaine's Gauge Hayman.
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